Northern Ireland

Formed in Dublin 130 years ago today, who are The Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge)?

The Gaelic League was formed in Dublin 130 years ago to challenge the decline of the Irish language. Picture, The Little Museum of Dublin.
The Gaelic League was formed in Dublin 130 years ago to challenge the decline of the Irish language. Picture, The Little Museum of Dublin. The Gaelic League was formed in Dublin 130 years ago to challenge the decline of the Irish language. Picture, The Little Museum of Dublin.

Founded in Dublin on July 31 1893, The Gaelic League or Conradh na Gaeilge was established with the goal of preserving Irish as Ireland’s national language.

Publishing and encouraging study of Irish language and literature, the gaelic scholar Douglas Hyde was a founding member and would later serve as the first President of Ireland.

Irish as a spoken language was reported to be on the verge of extinction at the time, with the 1891 census stating that as little as 3.5 per cent of the population had been raised to speak it.

The original intent behind the Gaelic League was to be a non-political and non-sectarian organisation open to all Irish men and women.

Douglas Hyde.
Douglas Hyde. Douglas Hyde.

Douglas Hyde himself was the son of a Church of Ireland minister and had managed to attract some unionists to join the league, including a Grand Master of the Belfast Orange Lodge.

Despite this, the perception of political neutrality did not last and the vast majority of members came from a nationalist background, with many of those who took part in the 1916 Easter Rising meeting through the organisation.

Read more

  • Belfast City Hall to be lit up in green to mark 130 years of Conradh na Gaeilge
  • Appointment of language commissioners for Irish and Ulster-Scots moves closer

On the Conradh na Gaeilge website, it is described today as the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community, with the main aim of promoting Irish as the standard language in Ireland.

With nearly 180 branches, the organisation has been a key driving force in recent years in the campaign for an Irish language act in Northern Ireland.